The Kitchen Door – Oxbow Market in downtown Napa, CA

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Napa Junction in American Canyon Has Food and Drinks – John Gamboa

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Don’t know much Pieology…

My lady and I were in Fairfield, CA craving some food one day so she went onto her Yelp app on her Lumia 830 Windows phone to see what’s good to eat near where we were. Scrolling through the list of places to eat for one dollar and 2 dollar pricing, she found this place called Pieology Pizzeria. It had good ratings so we decided to check it out.

Woah, it felt like I was in a Chipotle but instead of burritos, I’m looking at pizza. Interesting. That’s basically what it is, you choose how you want your pizza to be topped and they make it for you. The selection of toppings is pretty vast (no anchovies as my wife found out). Different cheeses, meats, veggies, and sauces. The pizzas are thin crust from what I was able to see based on some orders that went through as we were selecting our toppings. I let my wife build up our pizza while I snapped a few photos.

Pieology view from the entrance. Fairfield, CA

Pieology view from the entrance.
Fairfield, CA

Pieology at the counter

Pieology at the counter

This Pieology has modern decor as you can see from the above photos. Industrial ceiling above with exposed ventilation ducts. The use of tiles, metal, wood throughout as well as sharp corners add to the modern feel. The stainless steel oven is center stage behind the counter. It’s very nicely designed and I have a feeling all the other Pieology franchises look like this. A nice unique feature is the mural wall of inspirational quotes.

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

One of the quotes on Pieology's quote wall - John Gamboa

One of the quotes on Pieology’s quote wall

Quotes from different sources are spread out all over the wall and as you wait in line to place your order, it provides nice uplifting thoughts adding to the positive experience of your visit. At least it did for me.

When you get to the counter you are greeted by a host/pizza preparer with an ingredient bar in between you and them organized in the order you would normally place toppings onto a pizza. Sauces, then toppings. Not much to it.

Pieology choices - John Gamboa

Pieology choices

I don’t know about you, but at first this can seem daunting if you’re used to ordering pre-determined pizzas like pepperoni and mushrooms. You assume tomato sauce is the sauce and you get exactly that. At Pieology, having to choose a sauce puts a little delay in the though process. I’m sure a few times here, you’ll get used to it. BUT, if you get all flustered and bogged down by having to make decisions, they do provide a menu of pizzas you can choose from. Thank God my wife was there to build up our custom pizza otherwise I would have gone with one of their pizzas with predetermined ingredients. I think the “Mad to Meat You” pizza looks enticing.

Pielogy Menu

For those who just don’t feel like thinking too hard, there’s this menu.

Our pizza was excellent. I like thin crust to begin with and the toppings my wife picked were excellent. And for the sauce – pesto. What? No red sauce?!

Not this time.

My wife's Pieology creation

My wife’s Pieology creation

Only 2 slices left - Pieology - John Gamboa

Only 2 slices left – Pieology

Pieology in Fairfield is located at the Gateway Couryard shopping center within 20 minutes of Vallejo, Napa, and American Canyon in Solano County. Being a franchise, there are many Pieology Pizzerias throughout California as well as some scattered throughout the country.

Black Bear Diner in Vallejo

In the northern part of Vallejo close to Discovery Kingdom is shopping area where a lot Vallejoans get their wears and grub on. A few years ago a long time eating establishment by the name of Lyons closed their doors. Lyons died a slow death and unfortunately (or fortunately) saw its demise in early 2011 but out of its remains rose the Black Bear Diner which opened its doors in the summer that same year.

The first time I ever ate at a Black Bear Diner was in Suisun and to me it seemed like a super suburban type of place – almost country – that served good food and had good service. There’s a lot of wood used in the decor. Of course a Black Bear statue or several of them stand guard inside and out of the restaurant. The one in Vallejo even has a log toy train with little bears on them and my kids didn’t hesitate climbing atop and pretending to ride it and acted like they were friends with these cub statues. Adding to the ambiance, the menu looks like a old time newspaper from small town. You get the idea. It’s like you’re out in the country where black bears may join you for dinner.

Newspaper Menu

Newspaper Menu

The decor does make the restaurant feel livelier compared to Lyon’s during its last months. Where Lyons felt a little drab and depressing, Black Bear Diner is bright and cozy. I’ve been to Black Bear Diner four times in the last year and each time it was busy enough that I’ve had to wait. It’s a good sign. A busy restaurant (no matter the Yelp ratings) is a good thing to me. It means that people like the food enough to pay for it. The food is somewhat fresh because of turnover. As more people eat, the more food has to be brought in. And the service is decent enough that it doesn’t turn away customers.

newspaper menu

Black Bear Diner newspaper menu

Prices at Black Bear are right where a restaurant in a bedroom town like Vallejo should be – affordable. For a family like mine with 5 kids – 4 with restaurantable appetites – affordable is important. A burger, fries, and a shake with extra tin cup for the extra for under $15 bucks is welcome. Steak dinners for under $20 – pretty good.

Burger, Fries, and a Shake - John Gamboa - Vallejo

Burger, Fries, and a Shake

If you know me, my biggest criteria in deciding whether I’m going to enjoy my visit to a restaurant is the dessert menu. Good thing Black Bear Diner has banana cream pies in the dessert display fridge. Winner! Oh, they have other pies, too, but banana cream is my very favorite.

Another cool thing they have is 24 hour breakfast. So if you’re craving some good ol’ breakfast foods, you’re covered. Eggs, hash browns, sausage – you’re covered.

breakfast Black Bear Diner Vallejo John Gamboa

Eggs, Hash Browns, Sausage

If you’re in the area of Vallejo, American Canyon, and Discovery Kingdom and you want some good affordable food, stop by Vallejo’s Black Bear Diner and bring the family!

American Canyon’s CRAVE for Asian Fusion food

My eldest son told my wife and I about this little place he goes to get boba drinks. They’re those drinks that come with dark chewy tapioca balls. It turns out they serve food, too. A good thing for us because we like to eat out a few times a months as much as our budget allows our family of seven to go. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!

The little place he was referring to is Crave. We decided to try out Crave in American Canyon, a little town sandwiched in between Vallejo and Napa California. Crave serves a variety of things but I don’t think you can go wrong with most of the stuff they serve and they tout themselves as an Asian Fusion restaurant.

They have a wide selection of boba drinks (with and without boba). We got some taro root drinks, a lychee one, and a couple thai milk teas. There may have been an avocado one, too, but can’t be too sure. I like thai milk tea and Crave’s is pretty good. You can’t really do it wrong unless you put way too much milk that it tastes like, well, milk. Then you’ve messed it up.

This was our first time at Crave and the first food we ordered the Sisig Fries. Sisig, for those that don’t know is a Pampanga term that means “to snack on something sour”. Pampanga is a section of the Philippines in the Central Luzon region.

Enough geography…Crave’s sisig fries are excellent. A wonderful snack or meal if you’d prefer to enjoy them by yourself. It’s loaded with sisig pork, cheese, sour cream, and some other stuff, and it tastes good!

Crave-Sisig-Fries

Sisig Fries – Crave – Napa

Next we ordered the surf and turf noodles. It’s got pork, it’s got shrimp (hence the surf and turf in the name), and it’s got noodles. And it’s good, too! One of those dishes you have to try. It’s so simple yet so yummy.

Crave - Surf And Turf Noodles

Crave – Surf And Turf Noodles

They’ve got rice plates, too. Our family shared the barbeque pork skewers and egg over rice. They stick to what works in most Filipino restaurants and it’s done well.

BBQ - Pork-Egg-Garlic Rice

Crave – Napa – BBQ-Pork-Egg-GarlicRice

Oh! Did I tell you they serve crepes? If you have room after your meal, they’re an excellent dessert!

Dollar Car Wash?! Wow! American Canyon Car Wash – John Gamboa

On the way down highway 29 in Napa, CA my family and I passed American Canyon Car Wash and there was a special. One Dollar quick car washes! (Update: No more dollar deal. Boo!)

YES!

Our cars rarely get washed. I mean rarely like once or twice a year. With nary a cloud of rain anytime in the near future and a couple bucks to spare our truck full of kids turned into the driveway and paid our $1.

American Canyon Car Wash Entrance from Hwy 29

American Canyon Car Wash Off Hwy 29

Car washes aren’t all that exciting really but for us it was fun. Remember, we have 5 kids and for 4 of them, it was quite an experience. The baby sat quietly wondering what was going on. Number two, screamed in fear at the sights and noises attacking every panel and window. Number 3 and 4 were all smiles and keenly observing each phase of the wash from the initial spray of mist by the two guys at the beginning of the wash, they sprayed front, top, sides, wheels, and rear with their misting hoses, to shifting into neutral as the conveyor took the wheels and started pulling the truck forward.

For a buck it was a nice family event that the kids won’t soon forget. Not to mention that the vehicle now looks spotless – at least on the outside. The inside is a different story and it will cost way more than a dollar to clean that up. Nasty!

American Canyon Waiting Lounge

The waiting room

The quick wash even came with free use of their vacuums. That’s quite a deal if you ask me. But just like all good deals this dollar wash ended the same day. That being the case as soon as we got home, I took my car there. Numbers 3 and 4 came along for that one, too! I don’t know what it is about car washes but I remember trips to the car wash when I was a kid and that one was the kind where you had to get out and go into a room where you could follow your car through the wash through the windows. Even though you had to get out of the car it was still a fun experience.

American Canyon Car Wash Final Touch Area

With my car I decided to splurge and pay $3 for the extra foam wash and some other thing that I forgot but it sounded clean. Then after that my kids and vacuumed the interior. That was a fun thing to do with them and to be able to watch them work together at something was a pleasure to see.

I guess seeing something dirty and gross transform into something clean and shiny is a nice thing to witness. I know when I watch shows like Overhaulin’ where Chip Foose transforms ugly cars into works of art or Flipping Vegas when Scott and Amie Yancey take a junky house and morph it into beautiful homes that sell for top dollar, I really enjoy watching the process of the transformation.

In a small way, getting your car washed is kind of the same thing.

View of the main lot

Green Valley’s Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro

Nestled in a little town called Green Valley between American Canyon, Vallejo, and Fairfield is a Chinese bistro called Sticky Rice. It’s not typical Chinese restaurant, at least the typical ones I’ve been to. This establishment is quite nice and has a high end feel. The good news for me and my big family is that prices aren’t high end.

Its owners opted not to place their eatery in a strip mall but in an office building. But its location does not suffer from lack of traffic and once you’ve had the opportunity to eat there, you’ll most likely add it to your list of restaurants to come back to.

Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro

Glass waterfall in Green Valley (near American Canyon, Vallejo, and Fairfield)

As you enter the restaurant you’ll notice right off the bat that this is going to be a different dining experience. The decor is modern and classy. Nice contrasting colors and textures throughout. The dining area is open and surprisingly there are no dividing walls between tables. The only walls that are there exist between the dining area and the entry and bar.

And the dividing walls are very nicely made with wood, metal, and frosted glass. Their bar exudes quality and class. Something you might see at a nice hotel.

Sticky Rice Bar

Very classy looking bar

There’s also an outdoor patio if you decide to have the outdoor dining experience. It feels secluded and comfortable and they probably make it available for reservations I imagine.

Patio | John Gamboa

Patio

On to the food. For our appetizers we had hot and sour soup, wor wonton soup, and ahi tuna bites. The soups were good and expected. But the tuna bites were out of this world good! The presentation was top notch but the way they combined cucumber, tuna, seaweed, and how the Sriracha and aioli (I’m guessing) was to die for. Highly recommended if you ever decide to eat there.

Ahi Tuna Bites Appetizer

Ahi Tuna Bites Appetizer

The a la carte dishes we had were the pan-fried noodle chow mein, orange beef, fried rice, and honey walnut prawns. Everything was good. It was the first time I tried the orange beef and that was just OK. The honey walnut prawns, however, were perfect. Crunchy shrimp, great tasting honey mayonnaise sauce, and nicely candied walnuts. Honey walnut prawns are a family favorite and I’d say the way Sticky Rice prepares it is among the top 2 or 3 I’ve had. Not too much batter and just the right amount of sweetness to the sauce.

Honey Walnut Prawns | Sticky Rice | John Gamboa

Honey Walnut Prawns | Sticky Rice

Now my favorite part of all my meals: dessert. The two we decided to try were the cheesecake which had a raspberry drizzle. The other was the fried banana with ice cream. First, the cheesecake. It was really good. Can’t really mess up a cheesecake but then again, I don’t have very high standards when it comes to sweets.

Raspberry Cheesecake | Sticky Rice

Raspberry Cheesecake

The fried banana and ice cream was very, very good. Usually if it’s on the menu, I get the fried banana with ice cream. I’ll ask for ice cream if it’s not part of the dish normally. The surprising thing about Sticky Rice’s version is not the presentation or the taste, both of which were excellent, but it was the amount of dessert you get for the order. I don’t remember the price but I’m pretty sure it was less than 10 bucks! It was enough for 4 of us to share it and be satisfied with the quantity we were able to consume. That is value for your money!

Sticky Rice Fried Banana and Ice Cream

Sticky Rice Fried Banana and Ice Cream | Six Pieces and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream!

I would say that Sticky Rice should be on your list of places to east if you’re every passing by Solano County. It’s about 15 minutes away from Benicia and Vallejo, and the same drive from the other direction in Fairfield. I highly recommended you do it!